by j-a

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October 2008

Who Am I?

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh, it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, they'd be singing so happily,
oh, joyfully, oh, playfully watching me.

But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, oh, responsible, practical.
And then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, oh, intellectual, cynical.

But at night when all the world is sleeping,
the questions run too deeply for such a simple man.
Won't you please, please tell me what you've learned.
I know it sounds absurd. Please tell me who I am.

I say, watch what you say, they'll be calling you a radical,
a liberal, oh, fanatical, criminal.
Don't you side up to me, you've got to be an acceptable,
respectable, oh, presentable vegetable.

Supertramp, "The Logical Song"
a great big money grab

Am I missing something here? Has the world slipped something by me (again)? We have a serious "credit crisis," not only in this country, but around the world? I just don't get it? (Actually, I do. I'm just being histrionic.) Because, if you have to rely on credit, whether you are an individual homeowner or a local business or a national corporation or bank, you're going to face money squeezes from time to time; but when you tie yourself into the economic system so damn tightly, then, when that system suffers, for whatever reason, you will suffer too. Whatever happened to the idea that a proper way to run a business (or a home) was to establish and maintain a positive cash flow? Somehow we've decided that it's okay to maintain a cash flow by borrowing against the future; but all that strategy gets you is reduced profits during future good times, when your competition might be outdistancing you (if they're not all tied into the same strategy). It's a crappy business model, I think.

If I were to run a business, I'd be my own bank and maintain a slush fund for emergency situations that was capable of sustaining me during tough times for at least a year--to be practical; but, knowing me, I'd probably be more likely to extend that time period out to beyond my own lifetime, which is how I run my household/life; and, consequently, except for my small equities portfolio (which isn't doing all that badly, considering), I am unaffected by the Wall Street money grab, which they're calling a crisis and thinking they're so clever. And they are, because they've got congress desperately trying, against the will of the people, who surprisingly are not fooled, to pretend they are not "bailing out" Wall Street, to which end they've got all the financial "reporters" (read 'stooges') spinning the issue by trying to change it from a "bail out" to some kind of a Ponzi scheme where taxpayers will get their money plus profits back later when the economy improves.

What a joke! If they're bad investments now, they're bad investments in the future and no one is going to want them at the premium price that the treasury is planning on paying for them; and, if they're not a bad investment now, then buying them is not going to solve the problem (which even the feds admit is not so much a liquidity problem as much as it is one of perception and a lack confidence). A liquidity problem? Well, duh! That's what happens when everyone wants to hang onto their money, which is what everyone is trying to do--and rightly so. And the feds buying up the bad debt will do nothing substantial to ease that problem that couldn't be done by a mere willingness on the part of business to loosen the purse strings a bit, which is why it's really just a big money grab. You hear almost every day some vapid "reporter" claiming that there just isn't enough cash in the system and/or the "market" has lost a trillion dollars in one day and/or some similar inanity.

But not as much cash has been "lost" as is being claimed; most of it is merely theoretical (paper) profits, and the real money (the original investment value) is being transferred, from the pockets of stupid investors who are selling off their positions at a loss and into the bank accounts and treasury bills of rich investors who know what they're doing, which is why they're rich in the first place. When times get tough, they don't get tough for rich investors, they get better; it's an opportunity to grab up some cash and squirrel it away against a time when they can reinvest it to make even more--and, more importantly, to buy severely under-priced equities and hold them until a time when the stupid investors want to buy them at a premium again (pretty much like the government is doing right now). Consider this: When the media report that a "sell-off" is occurring, what it really means is that some investors are buying stocks more cheaply than previously. A stockholder cannot sell a stock unless someone is willing to buy it.

Yeah, for sure there's not as much cash in the system, because rich investors are buying stocks at a discount; and at the same time they lobby congress to convince it that "the system" needs capital from taxpayers to survive. What a gyp. When are the ordinary people in this country going to wake up to the fact that it's a huge con game that's being played and they are the marks? Well, it looks like some of them, the ones who do not want a bailout and are willing to cut off their noses to spite their pocketbooks, are finally waking up; but the other side is pushing back hard, desperate to maintain the status quo by shoring up the corrupt system.

And, home prices are dropping? Oh, boo-fucking-hoo. Like that's a bad thing? Sure, it's bad for current homeowners who see their equity leaking away; but hang on and wait it out and sooner or later you'll get your equity back; and, if you can't wait it out because you over-leveraged yourself, well, then too bad you stupid, greedy little cunt. Go crawl into a hole and die, muthafucka. When all the smoke clears, low housing prices certainly will benefit home buyers who can actually afford the payments on the loans they take out. Deflation is never a bad thing for the smart consumer who has hedged all bets and has access to cash; it only hurts the businesses who have not done so, and their employees who are so tied into the system that they didn't believe that they had to protect themseves against the loss of their jobs. The employment situation will get better and only the poeple who did not plan ahead will suffer in the meantime, and home equity will return for the long time homeowner who will wait it out, and meanwhile buyers benefit as the correction settles in.

Other price drops work the same way on a shorter time frame. Oil is dropping. Hopefully, food prices will be next. What the "markets" are really afraid of is not so much illiquidity as deflation. But deflation is other other side of the equation, and if the Fed didn't artificially rig the economy (by manipulating the money supply and interest rates) to try to totally avoid it, we wouldn't experience these wild swings and moderate deflation would alternate with moderate inflation. That is what a free market is really all about, rising and falling prices affected by supply, demand, and (true as opposed to ostensible) competition; but supposed self-proclaimed "free market" advocates don't want to hear about anything like that, because they love the fact that the Fed maintains a minimal and constant inflation, which enables prices (and therefore profits) to increase slightly faster than costs and wages (in conjunction, of course, with immigration policy, or, in the case of Mexico, a lack thereof), thereby slowly transferring money from the poorer to the richer citizens. Without these periodic corrections (without deflation, of course, which the Fed will control, at all costs), people who are dependent upon low prices to just get by would increasingly be straight-jacketed and squeezed into oblivion. (The poor die much earlier and faster than the rich.)

This, in part, is what I wrote to my senators and congressmen:

"DO NOT vote for the "bailout" bill. I would rather see the country sink into recession (which I do not believe will happen in any case) than see the financial "wizards" avoid another justified setback via the pig in a poke plan that Paulson is proposing. The plan will not achieve what Paulson claims it will. This is not so much a liquidity problem per se as it is a "hoarding" problem. If the banks and critical investors really wanted to, they could reverse the market immediately. (They still do it, day to day, when they see an opportunity to turn a quick profit.) Let the system take the hit if that is what will happen. But I don't think it will. If congress fails to act, the remaining big banks will. They're all just hedging their bets right now, hoping to benefit a little bit at taxpayers' expense. Force them to act in their own defense by voting down the 'bailout' bill."

But, as we all know, they didn't listen to me. Why should they? Who am I? I can say for sure that I am not my money, despite any propensity I might have toward that identity. My money is merely my security, and I am not suffering any kind of a downturn whatsoever. If you are, you should be questioning your system loyalty. I'm not; I'm unloyal to systems, to a fault. My loyalty lies with the written word. Is that, then, who I am?

reading, writing, and arrhythmia-tick

...another project for the heart,
six months for here someday
to make Chicago natural,
pick up a few strange images.
Allen Ginsberg, "Over Kansas"
When I write, usually, I have a narrow window of two to four hours where I can accomplish what I want to accomplish in an effective and competent manner. After that, I begin to lose my motivation and ability to concentrate. But even before I wind down, in fact almost as soon as I start, my focus is difficult to maintain and I (might, unless I make a supremely dedicated effort not to) jump from one task to another erratically, as my mind latches onto something and follows it toward its conclusion, but rarely ever getting there before I become distracted once again. This explanation is one of those distractions: a moment ago I was doing something else. And I continue working like this until I can no longer sustain the effort without feeling too put upon and the stress begins to build. Then I must distract myself, away from the distracted work I try to do; and if I do so via sleep, then I can get in a second work session in any given day. This is why I sleep for less than eight hours (in addition to the fact that I seldom ever could, even if I wanted to) and why I often lose my circadian rhythm: I end up staying up all night because I slept all afternoon, because I slept only four or five hours the night before...and so on. But, if I stay up too long, I might start to naturally speed; and then I can get a whole lot done; but it takes its toll, eventually.

When I read work written by authors who are supposed to be literary geniuses and I compare it with my own work, I can only conclude that I too am a literary genius. On one hand, I understand what people mean by the term "literary genius" and I know that I can emulate it, at least in the best of my work (though most often I choose not to, while I'm trying to do something else, yet still I might think, correctly or incorrectly, that the genius label applies); on the other hand, I frequently marvel at how low the actual 'literary genius' standard often is as it is applied, and I wonder if I am not missing something, some subtlety that, were I able to perceive it, I would then realize how (some? many?) authors are so far beyond me that I would have to struggle for the rest of my life just to fall short of even the most mundane of them. (This has been especially true of my perception of poets; I mean, come on! Is it really all that simple? Even T.S. Eliot seems so obvious.

And Ginsberg, though he has done some great work, most of the time seems just corny, especially the earlier stuff; and even his idol, Walt Whitman, though he towers above most poets, seems so obvious, his talent derived more from extensive rewriting than from the initial inspiration.) This all leads me to my opposite conclusion: that I really am deceiving myself, that I am not a good writer at all and am only indulging myself. These are the poles of my writing life: megalomania and extreme self-doubt. Megalomania always wins out in the long run. Though I appreciate great writing, I can't imagine that it's anything other than good technique and freedom of expression; and I qualify in both areas, with ease.

I want, like Ginsberg, to travel, and to write about places I've been; but I don't like traveling so much. I want, like Ginsberg, to move to a place for six months (or a year), acclimate to it, experience it as I write about it, and then move on; but I don't all that much care to meet new people, and traveling requires at least some modicum of that activity. And, in any case, I have all the strange images I need extant already inside my head, and I do not need to be cramming anything else in there, or anywhere else. (We all know what Ginsberg really meant by his "strange images" metaphor, don't we?)

My heart has been palpitating, just occasionally over the last few days; but merely once is enough to stir me up and begin the paranoia. I sit up in bed (slouching aggravates the condition) and feel the pulse in my neck, hoping not to detect another missed beat. Tick-tock. My heart is a clock, counting down the remaining years like seconds. I have to start being good for a while. That means no coffee or beer. I hate having to watch my health. I never get a goddam thing accomplished without caffeine; or, if I do manage something, I'm misreable while doing it. I wish I were like I was when I was young and could eat or drink as much of anything I wanted. I lived on huge quantities of caffeine, and I never accomplished anything worthwhile, mostly because I had to go out to a shit job every day. If I could have done then what I do now, I would have written dozens of Kerouak-style novels, traveled with Ginsberg and Cassidy-like friends (because I did that sort of thing back then, before I started working for a living and became both too self-conscious and too settled), and become another well-known derelict (instead of an unknown one.)

someone I used to be

I came home from work at ten p.m. exhausted from too long a day at a thankless job, having arisen at five a.m. years ago. The mailboxes were stuffed full of mostly flyers, but I had to pull them all out to winnow the few pieces of valuable mail. (We had two mailboxes then, because we were two people with two addresses, A and B, in a house, separated only in theory.) It was a rainy night, though not actually raining, but cold, and a dark warmth hit me when I opened the door and entered. Glow from the streetlight illuminated the dog curled in front of the furnace vent, too cozy to bother to rise to come and greet me. He wagged the tip of his tail once as if to say hello and let me know I was welcome, but don't disturb the lethargic peace he knew. She left the heat on, I thought, for the dog, who would be just as comfortable ten degrees cooler, wrapped in his fur coat. But when I checked the thermostat, it read sixty-two, the room hot only by contrast with the chilly night I had adapted to. She arrived a few minutes later from her second-shift job, a brief stop before heading to the bar, with the girl across the street. The dog was awake, now that the two ladies were here animating the previously quiet house; but he was quickly abandoned again. I was welcome to come along, of course; but I need sleep that I will not get because the neighbor wants me there, to game me. I am guessing, I am spacey, I am maybe misreading all the cues, I am wondering if there is already something going on between them. The night is cold in a way it had not been before, and I am out in it walking along slightly behind them, measuring each step. At the bar, I sleep with my eyes open at the table in the corner, their talk an incoherent drone that lulls me into oblivion. That is the way they want it, that is not the way they want it, that is the way it will be, as they manage to get me home and in bed. I am aware in sleep what they are doing beside me, disappointed that I have chosen not to join them, when I really had no choice. In the late morning they are gone off somewhere, or else they were never there and it was all a wish-fulfilling drunken dream. But her dirty work clothes are on the floor and the odor of a breakfast lingers in the kitchen from two remnant plates. The neighbor shows up later alone and reroutes her first choice into empathy when she realizes that I have feelings I don't reveal. It is via her awkward understanding I later came to understand myself what I then didn't know, that even the dog then knew.

night and day

I often awaken out of dreams with the memories of past regrets that keep returning, disguised sometimes, both within the dreams and in my waking memories, as something else, so that I suspect that I often miss what they're really all about. I've had so many interesting experiences that I all but missed out on because my mind was preoccupied somewhere else or else too exhausted to much care. Two ideas pressing themselves upon me: 1) "So many things" are happening, always. It never ends and is only put to sleep on my local level when I shut down for the night (or day); though it still doesn't stop, it stops for my conscious awareness (thank god, or whomever) and goes on within me (as dreams and unconscious process) and without me (in others--and psychically, if they actually are real phenomena). If I paid attention to only a fraction of what is happening (which is what I often feel like I want to do, though I could never actually manage to engage in that practice; therefore I must choose), I'd go nuts. 2) I exist in "stretches of time" that most people do not realize as fully as I do (I surmise). Each stretch has its own characteristics, both prototypical and personal. Let's start with the period of time from dawn until noon and work our way around the clock:

First of all, I could never understand why mankind arbitrarily chose midnight as the beginning of the day. Well, I can understand it (it's the antipodes of noon, when the sun is directly overhead); but I can't accept the convention. The real start of the day is dawn, to which an arbitrary hour cannot be applied, since it shifts its time back and forth through the cycle of the seasons. And this is the crux of the problem: It seems that human nature (or modern "sensibility") requires more rigidity (or, rather, a less complex rigidity) than nature can provide. "Midnight is the start of the day, and that's that," society dictates. "So you better get used to it." Well, I never did. Dawn is the beginning of the day for me, and my beginning shifts; and that's the way I like it, thank you, very much.

The period of time from dawn till noon is the best time of the day. It's only natural. It's new. It's "hopeful" (usually); or at least it has that inherent (prototypical) quality, although sometimes, sometimes often, personal psychology can easily negate the hope; yet, still. Starting out afresh each morning can be a wonderful experience, even (or maybe especially) when you do not hope to accomplish anything at all, but just to experience the development of the day. This is the time for pastoral poetry. (Well, maybe not so much as the next period; but still, again.)

Noon till dusk, especially as it winds down toward the end, can be a sad time sometimes. (At least for me, though not so much any more; maybe I'm healing here, huh?) As I mentioned, it's prototypically pastoral, more mellow than morning. Still though, like morning, it's conventional, a standard of means and practices, the way we are, one of the two periods when we go about our usual business. That's why it's all so much better when we skip this daily grind and take time out to appreciate the fullness of the day that nature can provide.

Dusk till the beginning of the depth of night is, unfortunately for us moderns, more ordinary than it should be; because this is when we watch tv, which does all it can (i.e., the programmers do, perhaps unintentionally in some cases, but not at all in all) to "normalize" us, to indoctrinate us into the herd mentality. "This the way the world is, this is the way people are, so you better get used to it." But if you turn off the tv set and go outside (or turn off the lights), you experience a different kind of world, one we seem to have forgotten all about.

The depth of night till dawn is the strangest time of all. Most of us don't know it very well and, when we have the rare occasion to experience it, we think it strange, mysterious, even frightening. But the deep night can be as safe as it is sorry, as secure as scary; which is what being alone is all about. If we are awake, everyone else is sleeping. It's not called the "depth" of night for nothing. We find it so easy to project our innermost existence onto it. It's a time of perhaps pensive waiting, for the dawn.

The power points, as Carlos Casteneda defines them, are dawn and dusk, the periods of transition. If we take the time, we can feel their energy and magic (though Casteneda probably makes too much of them in this sense). Simple transition is probably more their nature than magic; transition, though, is magical in and of itself. We transition in and out of day and night in exactly the same way we transition in and out of sleep; and that is no mere coincidence, of course. But what if it were not so, what if we were not so closely and rigidly programmed?

I am not. My periods of sleep roam around all over the place. I'm as likely to be asleep in the middle of the day as night. People have said to me that I miss a lot; but little do they know what they are missing. At least some of the time, very nearly half of it, I experience what they do not; and more besides, when I dream during the day, which imparts a different kind of dream experience onto the framework that purports to be my conscious mind. There is much to be learned about nature, both human and universal, by not waking and sleeping on a programmed schedule. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sometimes I'll awaken out of dreams after what might on other days be a full night's (or day's) sleep (i.e., more than four or five hours), especially if I slept a long while (eight or more hours) the previous day (or night), I'll have a cup of coffee, work for a few hours, feel satisfied and tired, and go right back to sleep--like I did today; or, ah, I mean yesterday, now.

I'm a high school student on a school bus with a group of kids on a field trip somewhere in a rural district in southwest PA. We're riding through forested hill country along a two lane. Jay Leno is the bus driver. He "advises" us (as if he were some kind of teacher) in his typical, shallow, talk-show manner. The bus leaves the roadway and drives up a long expanse of clear land on a mountainside. Halfway to the top, the bus breaks down (by stretching out, as if it's being pulled apart by gravity, like that of a black hole). We get out and start to walk. We're not sure which way to go. Jay has disappeared, replaced by a driver who is more like "one of us." We can continue on up the hill or go back the way we came; but, since we know there is no civilization for a long way back the way we came, we decide to go on up the hill. I see a ten-foot long six-by-six piece of wood lying near the bus, so I pick it up, since I recognize that it's a remnant of the bus breakdown and so should be preserved. Others are carrying other similar pieces. I come across another one and pick it up, thinking that other people ahead of me who passed it by should have picked it up first. Despite the large size of the wood, it isn't at all heavy and I have no problem carrying it. Part way up the hill, one of the other guys (the driver?) takes the second piece of wood from me. At the top of the ridge, we see a huge expanse of a valley below us; but we still can see no population areas. The ridge is snow-covered, so I lay the six-by on the snow, sit on it like a toboggan, and slide down the long expanse to the tree line below. Others do likewise. When we get down beyond the trees, near to the valley floor, we can make out houses in the distance. As we approach them, we have to make a decision as to which one we will head toward. Some of us head toward homes. I and another guy decide that it would be best to head toward what looks to be a commercial building, thinking we will more likely be able to get help there. We go around to the front of the large concrete block building and discover that it is not a single business, but a small indoor strip mall with small shops and restaurants. It's early in the morning and no one is around and no doors are unlocked except one place that is obviously not yet opened; Cleaning people are inside. I explain our plight and a cleaning lady lets me use the phone. I don't know who to call, so I call the school district and talk to someone who says they will send help. I describe to the person where we are. We go outside to wait. None of the others are anywhere around. The guy I'm with walks up the road a bit and across it into the woods to take a pee. I never see him again. Cut to that evening. I'm still waiting for someone to arrive. It's almost dark. The last business in the mall is closing and a guy is locking up the mall doors for the night. I don't know what to do so I wait all night, sitting on the pavement in front of the door and shivering in the cold. The next morning, when no one has yet come, I walk miles down to a police station, but they tell me there that they're a small country organization and can't help me unless someone shows up to take me home; that is, someone should come and claim me. I call my parents, who tell me that they'll try to come and get me as soon as it's convenient for them; but they never show up. No one ever does. I never see any of the others I was on the bus with and don't know if they ever got home either. I wonder if I had made the wrong choice and should have gone with others to one of the private homes. I wander around the area for the rest of my life, not knowing what to do or how to get home. Early on, I decided to start walking there, but it takes the rest of my life and I finally arrive here at my current home; but it's not really my home, I think. I belonged somewhere else and only ended up here because I had nowhere else to go.

I awaken with a profound sense of having been abandoned. I think that no one, nor society in general, cares for me. But that's just too bad, I think. Who cares, anyway? I am on my own. I've always been on my own, even when I lived with others. I was on my own when I lived with my parents. I never much cared to be involved with society or social issues, except to work at a job in order to support myself. So, to be fair, if no one cares for me, it's my karma.

I worry about my karma, esepcially when I consider the kinds of food I eat. I try to be so good sometimes, creating healthy menus and adhering to them for a time, and then I backslide, just for today, I think, and a month or two later I come to the realization that I've been eating crap and have abandoned taking any kind of supplement at all. Today, as I'm making myself a cup of coffee, I'm worrying about how much sugar, two heaping teaspoons per cup, I'm using. And, next, I start to worry about if I'm drinking too much beer (a bottle a day). And that leads me to start thinking about how I make my beer and wine, specifically how much sugar I use in the recipes.

But it's stupid to worry about (or not want to) add sugar to any given alcoholic beverage recipe because all that any alcoholic beverage is is fermented sugar of one sort or another with whatever base it is in chosen merely for its flavoring; that is, it's the sugar in the base as much as it is the flavoring ingredients that makes it a viable choice. In beer, it's the barley and/or wheat malt that provides the sugar; in mead, it's, of course, the honey; in wine, it's the fruit. And then there are the specialty wines, such as herb wines, which provide no "natural" sugars at all and so much rely entirely upon added sugar for alcohol content. So, unless the intent is something else, adding (cane or corn) sugar (which are themselves natural products) is a natural part of the brewing process.

But, although I have been misleading myself by wanting not to use added sugar, my intent is really something else: First, I've wanted to reduce ingredients, as much as possible, to those "locally " obtained, which means, 1) local stores, so they don't have to be purchased over the internet, a practice which I can also make an argument for being stupid, since there is no inherent difference between local and net store, unless I'm talking about locally grown products; which leads me to, 2) home grown, which is the true intent of my motive here: that persistent and pervasive idea of self-sufficiency that I've been plagued with all my life. Right now, the only (main) ingredient I purchase when I make beer is the malt. Everything else falls into the self-sufficient category: the hops are home grown; and the yeast, though originating elsewhere, is stored from previous batches and reused (re-grown). Although I do use store bought cane sugar for priming, I make all malt beer so as to avoid having to add sugar to the fermentation; but, even if I used the cane, still, it is locally purchased. (Same argument fallacy as above.) And, second, I've been thinking about making low-alcohol brews, which I would better accomplish without the addition of sugar.

This last point is maybe the only valid one. Sugar is sugar, however obtained; and, unless I can grow all ingredients myself, my products are not self-sufficient. But low-alcohol brews are perhaps a worthy goal anyway, providing a way to utilize homegrown produce, minimize my alcohol intake, and continue to engage in a creative, "homegrown" hobby with no overhead, except for the minimal cost of water and energy, of course; although I guess I could always boil the wort on the wood stove and use rain water. This conjecture points out exactly how ridiculous self-sufficiency is: As a relative practice, it's do-able, and somewhat cost-efficient; but in absolute terms, it's non-existent. We are all interdependent, no matter how autistic we may (want to) be.

odd behavior

I've noticed that I have no desire at all to drink a beer if I've been eating a lot of sugar. This makes sense and lately I've been running across oblique references to what seems to be an obvious physiological phenomenon that I probably should have known of long before now. This is the problem with society: It doesn't educate us very well, especially if we are "different". For the most part, we're expected to adapt and fit in by rote and intuition. And nowhere is this truer than in the workplace.

Employers are free, usually by law, to pick and choose their employees and to dismiss them with due diligence if they mess up, too much, too many times, typically; but, at the worst, in the best of states with employee protection laws, three times: one verbal warning, one written warning, one suspension. On the other hand, when it comes to employer workplace behavior, in our great capitalist "democracy", no one seems to care a bit to pass legislation or even guidelines that establish a system of fair warnings leading up to sanctions.

It's true that there are plenty of laws and guidelines meant to determine how employers should behave toward employees; but they do not create an equitable workplace exchange, with the possible exception of union shops, and we all know how unions are looked upon by our corporate capitalist culture. Employers, because they provide the capital, own the right to determine the outcome of workplace "disputes"; employees must rely on government (or privately hired lawyers, which no ordinary employee can really afford) to plead their case; and we all know what the level of competence is among government agents, not to mention the fact that government employees are, by the very nature of their own employer's loyalties, pro-employer.

I provide all of that as background for an explanation of what goes on inside large and small companies every single day: Employers adhere (when they do, when they can't get away with ignoring it) to the letter of the law when it comes to workplace safety; and, to be fair, some employers even believe that they should maintain workplace conditions in such a way as to avoid any physical harm to employees, if for no other fact than workman's comp and lost time affect the bottom line.

But it seems that no employer is concerned at all with any psychological harm that might befall its workers as a result of their employment, probably because it's so much more difficult to prove cause and in any case employees' psychological states are so easily affected by so many different situations in and outside of the workplace.

Employers must provide safe working environments for their employees. That should go without saying. But what is not being said is what "safe" means in psychological terms. If psychological conditions in the workplace enable psychological harassment of certain employees (for whatever reason) and management fails to address the issue and correct the problem, then the company should be required to bear the responsibility for how some employees ill-treat others.

Autistic people should not be discriminated against, either by companies or by their co-workers, and when co-workers engage in prejudiced behavior against autistics, it falls upon the company's management to correct this situation by educating the workers as to the truth of autism. I maintain that this is true even if the condition is unknown to the coworkers or the company, or to the autistic person her or himself.

Many autistics who are not aware of their condition nevertheless suffer from discrimination in the workplace. Odd behaviors are often looked askance at by people who are ignorant of the source of the oddness, and even by people who know the reason for the behavior. Employers must judge such behaviors, not on the basis of their oddness, but as to how they affect workplace function; furthermore, if they do negatively affect function, management must take reasonable steps to accommodate the behaviors rather than summarily dismiss employees who are "different".

Also, some employees who do know of their condition choose not to reveal it for fear of increasing discrimination against them. Therefore, whether the condition is or is not known to whomever should be irrelevant in determining whether discrimination in the workplace is occurring and if management is responsible for dealing with it. Management should be responsible, regardless of awareness.

People in power who do not take this approach to workplace behavior are as guilty as the coworkers who harass employees who exhibit "odd" behavior. It's difficult enough for some people to have to work far harder than "normal" employees in order to accomplish workplace tasks without having to put up with the additional burden of contending with discriminatory behavior besides.

It's difficult to know literally what people were thinking when they discriminated against me at my various places of employment, but it's certain in my mind that not only did it take place, but that management employees were involved. The deceptions (backstabbing, innuendo, etc.) that coworkers engaged in to keep me from knowing what was going on behind my back have been a problem that has plagued me throughout my life. By the time I settled into my employment history, I was already quite versed in knowing how people would do this sort of thing, although, most often, I didn't notice it right away, but only much later, often years later, thinking back; and, meanwhile, I was incorrigibly trusting throughout childhood and early adulthood. Nevertheless, I subconsciously perceived the behaviors directed against me and acted without awareness to protect myself from them, usually by withdrawing from the social situations in which they occurred.

I may not know exactly what people were thinking (I may often still not know), I may not know the literal deceptions they were (or are) engaging in, but I always seem to know (feel) when someone is not being straightforward with me; and I have always, when I've encountered this behavior, shied away from that person. I will not interact with people (and I especially will not give them my friendship or my business) when my "liedar" [a la gaydar] detects a less than honest demeanor. There are many ways that people (and businesses) turn me off to them. They run the gamut from ordinary people who lie for ego reasons or simply because they're ignorant of the truth yet make it up as they go along, through credit card and internet scams, through corporate shenanigans such as those of Bank of America, Comcast or Netflix, to the Congress of the United States and its malfeasance re lobbyists. People (and companies) will get away with their little (or big) con games, but I will always know they are up to something when they are. For some mysterious reason, I detect subterfuge when most often I have no idea what it is but just feel it happening, often merely subconsciously; and only much later do I verify it.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that managers most often escape blame when employees are fired; yet, often, they are equally to blame, not only for failing to properly manage employees and allowing the aforementioned discrimination and harassment, but failing or refusing to rule for or against the supposed grievance. It's just like when football players are fined for unnecessary roughness on plays where no penalties were called: it should only be fair that the referees should also be fined for not having done their jobs.

But how are we supposed to know why we are fired if they will not tell us the truth, how are we to rectify our situation without knowing? How are we supposed to exist within this neurotypical society and play on a level playing field if all the star players won't inform us and find it entertaining to make fun of us behind our backs? Not every one of us has spent a lifetime honing their paranoia into a lie detection mechanism. And, in any case, knowing that someone is lying to you or keeping something from you does you no good if you have no means at your disposal to do something about it.

I concluded a long time ago that I needed a list (which actually over the years turned into a large collection of lists) to determine how to act/live; i.e., plans, procedures, and little bits of sage wisdom re life's little problems, difficulties, etc. that neurotypical people intuitively understand as a result of having grown up in the mainstream culture with the mental ability to automatically absorb its nuances without the need for explanation and interpretation. I've attempted to create lists many times [out-lists, schedule procedures, etc.; my novel Bait is about this search for a comprehensive procedure about how to live my life], always without success, because there is way too much you need to remember to function in society; if you don't grasp the essence of it intuitively, which being autistic I do not, then no list however long or short, is going to help.

welcome to the machine

Here's another lame football metaphor for how we grow up oblivious to what we should know: [I'm not suggesting here that (some) football players suffer from congenital conditions such as mine; but I do wonder about why dumb jocks (don't get me wrong, they're not all dumb; but there is that propensity in sports) end up getting themselves into stupid kinds of trouble with what seems to be a lot more frequency than the average person.]

Back two years ago, after Ben Roethlisberger returned to football action after having been seriously injured in a motorcycle while riding without a helmet, he expressed the opinion that he was fully recovered, returned to top shape, and ready to play. But either he was spinning the facts or he just didn't understand how the effects of stupidity can haunt you for years, and maybe even for the rest of your life; if not directly via injuries, then psychologically, when the residue of unconscious material bounces around inside a naive mind, causing all kinds of unsuspected effects, not the least of which is unrecognized self-doubt that a strong ego will refuse to admit to, but which can undermine it in subtle yet effective ways. Throwing interceptions may be a way that Ben's unconscious mind directs his body to do things that his ego doesn't want done. He may need a good therapist.

This reminds me of the scenes in The Natural where the inept and squirrelly psychologist talks to the team. This kind of therapy is decidedly not what Ben needs; but ironically, it's probably what he's getting (or providing himself with), because this is the kind of ineffectual "positive thinking" that sports owners and managers typically provide to their players (although hardly at all as maudlin as that in the movie). A battle may be raging inside Ben's mind that the simplicity of positive thinking is incapable of handling, and I think he is set up for many years to shoot himself in the foot. This behavior is not unlike high functioning auties who try so hard to fit in and think they're doing such a good job of it until they find themselves fired from jobs totally unexpectedly.

Of course, the metaphor completely breaks down when we consider that society rewards dumb (and smart) jocks in ways that they have never rewarded other people who are "different". And, yes, whether you believe it or not, athletes are different, and not necessarily in that super-positive way that our culture wants to make them out to be, Because society rewards athletes so well for what they do, and because so many average people are running around thinking they're athletes when they're not (couch potato wannabees, amateurs who never rose into professional ranks, sports reporters), we tend to think of athletes as being just like "we" (average people) are; but they're not. They're a small minority who are incredibly well paid for what they do. (I can make a similar argument for Hollywood celebrities.) They are not at all average.

In recent years, however, society has been mitigating this problem of reward for services by overlooking the "faults" of people who are different when they happen to possess skills that society increasingly needs, such as IT people. Nerds are now more highly valued than ever. To a lesser extent, they have always been valued, as accountants, bookkeepers, economists, college professors, etc.; but now, with the economics of computerism skyrocketing, they're more like professional athletes than average workers. Nerds and jocks have always had a lot more in common than any athlete or "normal" person would ever want to admit. (We can see this argument made quite cogently at the end of the film Revenge of the Nerds).

Unfortunately, the tide is right now beginning to turn, as IT people have flooded the market and devalued their demand. But nerds (of the autistic variety) are not limited to the traditional nerdy professions, and those ordinary nerds among us who must take ordinary, everyday jobs and live ordinary, everyday lives are still discriminated against by a society that classifies us as less than able, not so much because we are as because society has been set up to disconsider us; we are neither treated equally in the workplace, nor are we accommodated when the work processes and procedures are planned out.

Sports figures being, perhaps, on the average, slightly more ignorant (despite the "higher" education many of them receive), it irks me that society places such a high value on their "performance." I object that sports figures make so much money. My objection is also directed toward entertainers in general (celebrities); but jocks who make their living with their brawn contribute only to the superficial nature of society. Ditch-diggers, et al. contribute to infrastructure and, though their jobs are menial and often far more thankless than they should be, at least their compensation is commensurate with the nature of the work. Commercial jocks should be paid similarly, probably near the top of the brawny pay scale since their entertainment value is higher than that of a ditch-digger (obviously, I'm using 'ditch-digger' metaphorically here) and provides a certain amount of "mental relief," a '"therapeutic" (cathartic) social value.

What I'm really objecting to here is the high value that this society places on celebrity and the entertainment industry. If it took a fraction of the money vested in entertainment and applied it toward education and advancement of the masses, the idea of "entertainment" would be raised to a whole new level, the need for reducing violence by shunting its tendency into sports would be greatly reduced, and society would be so much the better for the redirection of the funds. But we're not going to do that because that would mean that the elitists would have to further share their ill-gained assets with generation after generation of new competition that they had to contend against.

"Businessmen" [not the ordinary kind of tradesman that the term originally implied, but the "robber-barons" of the corporate variety (robber-barons of the non-corporate variety being otherwise known as con men); we know them all by the core nature that they share] gather their money by taking advantage of people who know less than they do, who might give up far less of their meager earnings if they understood how they were so easily taken advantage of, which a small amount of education would afford. So it behooves the "businessmen" to keep their standards and practices obscure. It's relatively clear to the average citizen how the small businessman in the corner shop earns his living via markups and margins; it's completely unknown to her or him how the CEOs and/or boardrooms of modern corporations (not to mention the derivative charlatans and sleazemen of Wall Street firms) bilk ordinary citizens through their chicanery. (The entertainment industry works in this very same way, which might surprise some of us.)

Solution: There is none. Democracy works to remedy the problems after they have been long standing and become somewhat obvious; but redress of grievances and justice-seeking is a long and drawn-out process that few people choose to engage in; and, anyway, due to the nature of the postmod corporo-governmental machine, we hardly have a democracy left any more. I don't want to imply that I am against people making millions and even billions of dollars in business enterprises. It is, after all, the way that our economy functions. What I'm saying is that those people should be legally restricted (and the laws enforced to prevent people) from exerting undue influence to manipulate the economic and, especially, the political system; and they should pay their fair share of taxes (which they do not). That would go a long way toward a solution to the problem; but it's not going to happen. It never does when unscrupulous people get a foothold into an otherwise good idea like democracy. This is what revolutions are for.

This is what conservatism becomes when it stops wanting to preserve the status quo and starts looking around for ways to increase profits, at whatever social cost. Conservatives, when they know they've got it made, can't leave it well enough alone. (To be fair, neither can liberals in the opposite direction.) Their big heads swell up even bigger, they become increasingly more arrogant, and they act to belittle anyone who would stand in their way of obscene profits and concern for an ordinary, struggling citizenry. We can read this arrogance in the delivery of the messages they sent out; for example:

It irks me when conservatives point to Ronald Reagan's chastisement of Lloyd Benson [a film snippet of the (in) famous debate that's been in the news a lot recently], where Reagan says, "Now there you go again..." as an example of his political savvy. Maybe after all it was clever of the man to have belittled Benson in that way; but for me the incident represents exactly what was wrong with Reagan, his elitist superiority and resultant condescension, which he demonstrated by talking down to people and putting them in their place, which was what he was all about, thinking that those people who didn't agree with his hardcore capitalist beliefs and especially those people who were incapable of competing in his macho world were so inferior. [John Wayne disgusted me in this same way, though not nearly so much as Reagan; but then Wayne was never the president. And btw, was John Wayne motivated to become a southern college football player and subsequent macho screen image to overcome the childhood effect that his real name, Marion Morrisey, had on his psychology? Hmm.]

Conservatives prefer the illusion and superstition of the status quo to scientific truth and social progress. Rigorously thinking conservatives may know the truth, but for selfish, even greedy reasons they choose rhetoric, subterfuge, and obfuscation to hide it from the conservative masses so that they will blindly support the "conservative agenda" (keeping the elitists rich and the poor, whether or not conservative, poor).

Liberals, though they may use the truth to promote their "liberal agenda" (redistribute the wealth by giving the poor money they do not earn in the vain hope that they may use it to better themselves and thus society) may be literally "correct," but their intentions are not so aboveboard as they want you to believe. (Far too many of them are not above using their social position to maintain their own peculiar status quo and the politicians just want the votes of their constituents.)

Sure, help the poor souls in any progressive way you can, but short of giving them money that they did not earn. Give them education, training, jobs, mass services to keep them from starving and off the streets and out of the cold, moral support and encouragement, any non-monetary "hands-up" you can think of. But DO NOT give them money. Unfortunately, the conservatives are right when they claim that the poor are poor for a very good reason.

I can understand why you would want to be a conservative if you have a lot of money and/or a high-paying job and want to protect yourself from the relative deleterious effects of a socialist agenda; but why would you be so stupid if you have no money, work in a shit job--or have no job--and struggle to make ends meet? The obvious answer is: They've got you right where they want you.

The rationalization that rich people use for backing corporo-governmental policies that keep them rich and getting richer at the expense of the poor is that they have money in the first place because they're smarter and smarter people should have more money. Well, by that same logic, when the poor act to influence the government to provide them benefits and subsidies, they're not so dumb themselves. By this logic, the rich are still smarter than the poor, but the poor manage to hold onto a bit of their own ground within a socialist system.

The problem here is that the whole of the logic is flawed. If smart people were more highly rewarded like the rich claim they are, then many of the smart poor would not be stuck disenfranchised within a systematic poverty; they'd be able to work their way out of it. Currently, only the very smartest of them are; and they have to be far smarter than the average rich person in order to escape their poverty. And the dumb rich would sink into the poverty trap and not be able to escape it; but they don't, because they're entrenched within families that protect them from decline.

It would maybe be a better system if hard work got you to the top. Sometimes it does; though seldom. Usually, it gets you to somewhere around the middle, where you have to maintain your daily struggle just to stay where you are while many of the rich live opulent lifestyles while never having to do a hard day's work in their lives. So much for logic.

And while I'm on the subject of conservatives, Melissa Hart is trying to make a comeback. Didn't she learn the Santorum lesson? Some people are incorrigible. Message to Melissa: I fundamentally disagree with your politics and I'm glad you lost the last election. But I like the way you look, and I admire the character I see in your face. I fantasize that we would make a good couple, despite our probably highly divergent sexualities (although, you never know); and perhaps by virtue of our extremely differing political differences. Who knows? We could become quite the wonk/ette couple and end up as the next Carvel and Matalin; and maybe even more extreme. Let's hook-up, babe. (Christ am I disgusting. I'm really a cynica, sarcastic prick when Im tired. I better go and get some sleep.)

I guess so

This is the time of year when I start to think about my purpose in life. I don't mean to suggest that this is a purposeful endeavor, but rather that it seems to happen automatically, that I begin to question my existence, why I am here, what I'm doing with my life, how I seem to have no purpose, what could my purpose be? The obvious purposes for life, procreation and career, seem to have eluded me. (Both seem to be so recursive; people do them in order to survive and prosper, so that they might enable others to survive and prosper, so that... "We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here...")

And communication, though it would seem to be a purpose of mine, I always somehow manage to elude. I write in order to communicate because I do so little of it otherwise. Not that I'm no good at communicating in person; quite the reverse. When I set myself to the task, I excel; but my genetic predisposition causes me to hide away from it for very long periods of time. And even (most of) my writing goes unread, an isolated exercise that would communicate if only I would go to the greater lengths to get it out there. Or communion might be a higher purpose; but, again, only if I would do it far more often. I don't know.

I've been thinking that a need a new "way of life," something that changes me. I've done what I've set out to do since my early "retirement": writing, the gardens, beer and winemaking, detachment, health stabilization and improvement; these "goals" are in maintenance mode, and I wouldn't want to give them up in order to pursue a different line of inquiry, but they're beginning to bore me. To be sure, there's a whole lot more to do in these areas, especially in writing, and I'd like to pursue the finer arts (painting, sculpting, etc.) in far more detail; but I feel like I'm missing something, probably to do with human interaction (although there is still that part of me that wants to continue the prolonged isolation). I've thought of trying out acting. Over the past several years I've had a fair number of opportunities to break into the field via some extra work in major films created locally by the union-busting efforts of national film enterprises filming in this area; but in every case I've reneged and let them pass me by after idly entertaining the possibility. It always seemed just too far out; and still does.

Maybe, after all, I'm still not done doing what it is I do. Maybe I never will be. Maybe, after all, this is how I am "meant" to live my life. I do have at least several more books to write (and many, many more to polish so as to be publishable); I have my "art" "career" to (re-)establish, all of the materials and workspace to organize, many projects to finish, and many more in mind (on paper) to start; I have many more crops to grow and permanent plants to establish; and, certainly, many more homebrewed beers to drink. I guess I'm not doing so badly. Things could be a whole lot worse. It must be just the time of year, the coming winter cold and waning of the daylight, that is making me think this way. I guess so.

And "hiding out" in the bedroom in the "winter" (cold) is no big deal if I take seriously the daily "token" schedule system that I configured exactly for this reason, so that, when I hide away, I don't allow critical or preferred tasks and goals to fall so far behind "schedule" that catching them up requires a super-human, all-out effort that is more likely to bring debilitating stress than quality results in the spring.

My schedule system's token tasks, if completed one by one (interspersed by retreats back into the cozy warmth of the bedroom) assures that each area of concern is addressed on a daily basis and progress, though painstakingly slow, occurs. Add to this token work a few of the spontaneously listed tasks and goals, accomplished in this same interspersed retreating manner and, viola! A bit of progress; even in the darkest of times. If I would just stick to this schedule procedure, maybe one of these days I'd get this house together.

I don 't have a big house (which is maybe a good thing, because if I did, I might have all that much more "junk" lying around. The mere fact that I could "afford" a larger house would mean that I would also have enough money to afford more junk.) Yet, I've always entertained the fantasy that I might one day live in an even smaller place, one that housed only the most basic of appliances and supplies; with no storage problems because I would have nothing to store away, no innumerable projects' materiel waiting in the wings, no collection of tools or gardening equipment because there would be no need for them. I would live a quiet life of the mind, and for entertainment I would read, watch tv, listen to music, or go out into society. A one-room efficiency would be my ideal; but a small trailer would serve as well.

And suddenly I realize, hey, that's what I got now! I live in a narrow forty foot trailer with a forty-foot addition of equal size, all constructed upon a large basement/garage structure with an equal amount of space; but I live in the trailer part of it, the small bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and front room (that I call my office), and the rest of the house and large basement/garage is my storage area, lined deep with tools, supplies, and waiting projects. I should reorganize the trailer part of my home to exclude all project-related crap (except the computers), thereby making it a (relatively) normal home. I could do this with a (relative) minimum of planning and effort, I think. As it is I'm almost there already. Just relegate the hoarding addiction to the non-trailer parts of my home area.

In the film Trainspotting, Ian McGregor, defending his and his friends' heroin habit, says something to the effect that they do it because it makes them feel great, that they're addicts, they're not stupid. I've thought about this line for a long time and on many occasions wondered if it was meant ironically; but I always thought not. I think it's meant to be taken at face value; and, if so, then they (or the filmmakers) in fact are stupid, in more ways than one.

First of all, they're stupid for allowing themselves to become addicted in the first. Okay, so that's a more naive kind of stupidity, the innocence of youth. We'll let that one go. But they're also stupid because, once they find themselves addicted, they don't make the superhuman effort to get clean. This is what the intelligent addicts do, recognizing that they're significantly endangering their lives.

But, most importantly, they're stupid because they justify their addiction with the claim that it feels so good. That is the stupidest rationalization of them all, believing that life is all about feeling the best that you can possibly feel and searching for that continual good feeling, at all cost. To be fair, the film's meta-theme makes the opposite point, or at least it equivocates on the issue. But, from the individual addict's POV (within and without the film), addiction is its own reward, and justification. How much more stupid can you get?

Well, you could be addicted to something like hoarding, which doesn't have anything at all to do with feeling good. Although, I do have some great reasoning for why I hoard everything I do, I restrict more than half of my available living space with supplies and equipment for projects that I will probably never get to. But the real problem is not that I'll never get to them, but that I do not take the time to keep it all organized and hidden from immediate view, which I could manage to do with not all that much effort. It's just that I always feel that my time is better spent lavished on my other, my main hoarding projects: ideas.

When confronted with the opportunity to use my time and energy either writing or working on projects, I always choose writing; or else I choose thinking about writing, or other ideas that might one day become writing, such as why I am like I am, how I got to be like I am, by virtue of my genetics, how I might change myself, which I am always trying to do (a large portion of my ideas' projects) and having somewhat moderate success at, and how those changes result in any number of pasts that I have recreated out of the stuff of which my own personal past is composed, leaving residues of personality that make me think to ask, "Who am I, really, after all? Which one (set) of these people I am and seem to have been is the real one, when they all, in one way or another, seem so real, since the one that society made such a dedicated attempt to convince me I was is so obviously so far off the mark? The older I get, the more of me I see, not only in the recreated past, but in what most of the world is convinced in the only "real" past, that one back there that "they" tried to restrict me to so unsuccessfully.